Rafah tunnel (archives)
Photo: Reuters
Report: Egypt steps up war on Gaza smuggling
Cairo security source says forces on Rafah border reinforced with hundreds of police officers, armored vehicles and roadblocks. Forces using advanced American equipment to uncover tunnels, he adds
Egypt's security forces have deployed a large number of police officers in uniform and in plain clothes along the Rafah border recently, alongside armored vehicles and dirt and iron roadblocks, in an attempt to prevent the smuggling of weapons and goods into the Gaza Strip.


A security source told the London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper that "the extensive deployment has caused a lot of tension among the smugglers. Some have even began approaching the security barriers, coming from side roads and firing in the air."


According to the source, all the dirt roads leading to the border with the Gaza Strip have been closed, including side roads. According to the report, the Egyptian security organizations have allotted some 500 policemen and officers for the war on smuggling and for the reinforcement of checkpoints.


In addition, Egyptian border guard forces have assumed responsibility to supervise the tunnels in the area, using advanced monitoring measures received from the United States.


The newspaper also reported that tunnel merchants in the Rafah noted that the scope of their activity had dropped significantly recently. Mustafa, a relative of one of the smugglers, told the paper that "many families in Rafah earn a living from the tunnel industry – mostly from things related to the smuggling, like packing the goods in plastic sacks and carrying them into the tunnels."


Mustafa added that the smugglers have begun working in new ways, in an attempt to avoid the police forces, including the use of motorcycles. He said that Rafah's residents were infuriated by the multitude of roadblocks and the Egyptian security deployment which was damaging their freedom of movement.


"There are surveillance posts everywhere. We are extremely concerned over this security reinforcement," another Rafah resident told the paper.


The commander of the Egyptian border guard said last week that his forces have curbed the smuggling of weapons and goods into Gaza. In an interview with Egyptian daily al-Masri al-Youm, General Abed al-Wahab Mabruk said his forces have been deployed deep within Egyptian territory and along the country's land border and coastline in order to control the roads and crossings - including Rafah - along the Egypt-Gaza border.


According to the general, the mass deployment was carried out in the framework of the plan to secure Egypt's border with Gaza, which also included putting up barbed wire fences and watchtowers.


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